Online Animal Sales: Regulation

Neale Hanvey Excerpts
Monday 13th December 2021

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (Alba)
- Hansard - -

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Mundell, and to speak in this important debate. I, too, thank the hon. Member for Neath (Christina Rees) for introducing the debate, but most importantly I thank Richard Ackers, or Rick as he is better known, and the Reggie’s law team for their courage, passion, compassion and determination to bring this matter into focus and before the House today through their petition, tireless campaigning and a more than 200-mile walk from Wigan to deliver the petition. It was an honour to join Rick as he delivered it to No. 10 last week.

There can surely be no more noble pursuit than seeking to protect those who are otherwise defenceless against tyranny. That is what we are concerned with today—the tyrannical abuse of power against defenceless creatures and what action we can take to limit, prevent and ultimately stamp out such cruel practices.

Like many families, mine was blessed with a new puppy during the pandemic. Reflecting back, I realise that our wee puppy could so easily have suffered the same fate as Rick’s Reggie. We found his advert online, we visited the seller and—despite asking all the reasonable questions about the location of the mother—once we had seen the pup, we melted and just accepted the assurances that we were given that mum was resting because she was tired from suckling. Thankfully, our wee Malu is fine and is now the boss of all he surveys.

Rick’s family were not so fortunate. Since the loss of Reggie in December 2020, Rick and the Justice For Reggie team have been working with other distressed families to highlight and uncover the facts about the illegal puppy trade, illegal online sales and the mental health impact that has on families. Their work aims to use this tragedy to deliver positive legislation by gaining the support of Parliament, and it is great to see cross-party support today.

What will Reggie’s law do? It will incorporate regulations to provide a safe buying platform for potential buyers of animals sold online on animal selling sites. It is far too easy to sell a pet. It requires only an email address and a burner phone. Rick has found that too many online pet selling sites are reluctant to engage in improving standards of online animal sales and welfare. The law would require all online pet selling platforms to support a comprehensive ID check of the seller behind every pet, and require evidence of the mum to be submitted, whether by photo ID or other means. I suggest today that that should be tied to a pet passport identifier, because we know that a large number of puppies are illegally imported into the UK to be sold online.

The other question to understand is this. Will Reggie’s law make a difference? Well, Rick and the team are in regular discussion with various stakeholders from the RSPCA, Dogs Trust and others, and they have secured agreement that the ID requirements of Reggie’s law would not only put in place necessary barriers in relation to this practice, but make investigations and court action against illegal breeders and sellers much easier. We know what the international response has been. In Victoria, Australia, following the introduction of a similar law known as Oscar’s law, dog theft and illegal breeding and selling dropped by more than 90%. Reggie’s law could have such a positive impact, not only on puppy-farmed pets and stolen pets but on the health and wellbeing of owners and buyers.

As animal lovers and pet owners, we know the bond of love and loyalty that exists with the family pet. Will the Minister outline how the matter being debated is to be taken forward, given the wide public and cross-party support here today? We have a duty to honour that loyalty by protecting those creatures who are otherwise defenceless against such cruelty. This would be a real opportunity to set the tone for legislation to be developed across these islands.